Undergraduate Student becomes the First Rwandan to be Awarded Rhodes Scholarship

[2021] Billy Byiringiro has been selected as this year's Rhodes scholar for the East Africa region, the first Rwandan to win the prestigious award.

Billy Byiringiro stood outside in brightly-coloured top.
Billy Byiringiro


Billy is a fourth-year Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science student and a Mastercard Foundation Scholar. Supported by the Rhodes Scholarship programme, once completing his degree at Edinburgh Billy will go on to postgraduate study at the University of Oxford, embarking on a Masters in Computer Science followed by a PhD in Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems.

Billy beat competititors from across East Africa to be named the Rhodes Scholar of the region, and is the first Rwandan to be selected since the programme's inception in 1902. The Scholarship's 117-year history marks it as the oldest and one of the most prestigious postgraduate awards in the world. This year the programme received over 2,300 applications, and recipients were chosen virtually due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to excelling in his studies, Billy holds many significant student roles including leading the University's intramural basketball team and co-founding BuniTek, a student-led social enterprise that enables young people in Africa to access new technology through interactive activities. He has previously won the Microsoft and EaRs Internet of Things (IoT) hackathons.

I feel grateful and honoured, and it is an unparalleled delight for me to be one of the recipients of this prestigious scholarship. It is an opportunity for me to continue learning and to be in a network of like-minded individuals who are making a positive impact in the world. I believe being in this network and continuing my further studies at Oxford will help me to maximise the impact I intend to make in the world which will entail using my passion for computer science and AI to impact the lives of people in my community.

Being the first Rwandan to be selected for this fellowship, I also hope it inspires many young Rwandans to have confidence in themselves and apply for this opportunity in the future.

Billy Byiringiro

The Rhodes Scholarship

First awarded in 1902, the Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest and one of the most prestigious international scholarship programmes in the world. The programme enables exceptional young people to undertake full-time postgraduate study at the University of Oxford, and aims to select students with the potential to lead and make a positive impact on the world in later life.

The Rhodes Scholarship covers University of Oxford tuition fees and expenses for two or three (in some cases four) years of postgraduate study, averaging around US$70,000. Rhodes Scholars benefit not only from financial support but also the life-changing opportunities that come with becoming part of the fellowship of Rhodes Scholars. Selection Committees consider not only intellect, but also character, leadership and committment of service, creating a warm and engaging community based on sharted values. The Rhodes Scholarship opens up opportunities for Scholars before, during and after their studies at Oxford.

The vetting process for the Scholarship is rigorous. After submitting applications, selection committees interview those deemed to be the strongest candidates based on four selection criteria: academic excellence, energy to use their talents to the full, leadership ability, and traits such as courage, devotion to duty and unselfishness.

Billy Byiringiro impressed the committee in all... areas, in the context of an incredibly talented group of finalists from all five countries in the East Africa jurisdiction.

Mauro De Lorenzo
Acting National Secretary for East Africa

Related Links

The New Times: Former Saint-André student becomes first Rwandan to win coveted Rhodes scholarship

The Rhodes Scholarship

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Programme